Professor Art & Sustainability at the Minerva Art Academy in Groningen (NL)
I have always been fascinated by the relationship between humans and nature. Humans are completely dependent on the health of the natural world. In fact, we are an integral part of it; we are made of the same ingredients as the rest of life. I believe that this connection is fundamental for us existentially; it makes us who we are. And it is also of key importance for the long term well-being of our Earth. Yet, we imagined ourselves isolated from the source of our existence. Nature is often regarded as merely a source of raw materials in our economy that is based on the idea of infinite growth. The voices of our fellow creatures have been silenced. In indigenous cultures, however, there is still the understanding that we as human species are part of the circle of life, and that there is a “more-than-human world” of which we are part. Nature is our home, land is our life, they say. It has intrinsic value, irrespective of its use value to humans. Such an insight evokes respect and inspires environmental conservation.
When living and painting in the deep forests of Sweden, I experienced that making art can be a powerful way to re-establish a more personal and direct connection with the natural world. Art allows for a subtle and rich interaction with nature because it is not confined to pre-established rules or truths.
Ten years ago, in Finland, a group of people and me established a research group on what we called “arts-based environmental education.” There I could explore this theme further and develop my own practices in connecting to nature through art. I wrote a thesis in which I put down my findings and reflections. As an art educator I developed the approach of Wildpainting as a way to inspire participants to open their senses to the place and landscape where they find themselves, as they engage in new ways with colours. And then there it starts, beginning to see our wonderful Earth with fresh eyes.